King of the Monsters is one of those titles that, despite being a very mediocre game overall, enjoys a fairly strong following around the gaming community. The game takes the classic "giant monster stomping through cities" made famous in the King Kong and Godzilla movies, and somehow builds a one-on-one fighting game around it. But instead of using classic fighting game mechanics, the game employs more of a beat 'em up style of game play and creates an experience that feels more like a wrestling match than a fighting game.
The game can be played by one or two players and even offers up a two-player cooperative mode that allows two players to each take on a computer-controlled monster at the exact same time onscreen. You can move around the level freely in typical beat 'em up fashion, crushing buildings and other structures for extra points as you attempt to pound the opposing monster into submission.
The game makes use of three action buttons: a punch, kick, and run button. Using these three buttons in different combinations you can pull off a variety of special moves with which to pummel your opponent. As an added bonus, you can even grab passing fighter jets and choppers and then turn around and use them as a projectile against your opponent. As in a wrestling match, once you've taken down your opponent, you must then hold them down until the timer runs out at which time you're declared the winner of the match.
While the control in the game is solid, there's just not a lot of depth in the fighting engine and after awhile, the game just feels too redundant. Once the initial excitement of knocking over buildings and pile-driving the giant monsters passes, there's just not a lot of substance left. The levels keep changing, which does add a little playability to the mix, but it's still not going to be enough to keep most gamer's attention for more than a short period of time.
The visuals in King of the Monsters are good, but don't offer much flair. They're not even that great by Neo Geo standards. Since the surrounding cities and structures are made to look very tiny, there's not much detail in the different areas. The monsters themselves look really good, but their animations look somewhat silly and the lack of animation frames certainly doesn't help matters. About the only saving grace to the entire visual experience comes in the fact that there is generally so many things taking place onscreen at once that you won't have a lot of time to sit around and stare at the surroundings anyway. It's just as well since there's not much to look at.
It's clear from playing the game that the background music doesn't play much of a role throughout the game. While you can somewhat hear the music at times, it's generally overpowered by the game's incredible sound effects. If there's a shining moment in the game, it has to be these sound effects. Everything from the wailing of the monsters themselves to the buildings crashing to the ground sounds like it was taken straight out of one of the classic Godzilla movies. Even the fighter jets and choppers that come flying by sound almost like the real thing. It's a shame that the same type of effort that afforded the game these amazing sound effects wasn't put to good use in the other areas of the game where it was sorely needed.
There will be gamers that will enjoy this game. It's got huge monsters, solid beat 'em up action, and plenty of buildings to crush. The only thing it doesn't have is the game play variety to go along with it. If you like mindless fighting action coupled with a hollywood monster movie mentality, you'll probably like this game. But if you're looking for a fighting game with any type of depth or substance, you might want to look elsewhere. There's just not much variety in this game and the fact that Neo Geo titles cost a whopping 900 Wii Points just basically adds insult to injury. Do yourself a favor and wait for King of the Monsters 2. It's a much better game.